A little over ten years ago, I received a phone call all unpublished authors (and even most published ones) dream about. It was a publisher calling to tell me my manuscript had been accepted and would be coming out that fall. The moment you’ve always imagined, right?
Except the thing was, I hadn’t imagined that moment. I was the CEO of a demanding internet company. I’d never attended a writer’s conference, learned how to write a query letter, seen a publishing contract, tried to acquire an agent. I’d written a book, but that was as far as it went. I was excited, but also more than a little terrified.
Fortunately, I managed to contact one of the biggest names in LDS Publishing. No not LDSPublisher. She wasn’t around at the time, or at least her blog wasn’t, though I could really have used it. I e-mailed Chris Heimerdinger and he was incredibly helpful and gracious. He saved me from stepping into several major pitfalls.
Fast forward to now. There are so many more resources for LDS writers than there were back in the day. Blogs, columns, conferences, writers groups, critique groups, classes. It’s so incredible to realize what we have access to. And, if you don’t mind me saying, it’s also a little scary. Right now I can Google (a word that wasn’t even around back then) “publishing tips” and get more advice than I could probably read in a lifetime. And at least half of it will conflict with some other piece of advice.
And here I am adding another weekly column? Why?
A good friend asked me that last week, and I didn’t have a perfect answer. There is no one clear reason. But there are several little ones that led me here.
As LDS writers it sometimes feels like we are happy little goldfish swimming in an ocean full of sharks, eels, barracudas, and other menaces. (I know, I’m combining my freshwater and saltwater metaphors. Blame my researcher, Igor.)
Do I write for the LDS market or the national market? Do I get an agent or not? Is my writing too smutty for the LDS market? Is it too tame for the national market? What publisher should I talk to? What should my contract look like? Should I join a critique group, go to a conference, hire an editor, send a box of chocolates to LDSPublisher? (Always a good idea.)
It can make you crazy.
The awesome thing is that the answers to all of those questions are out in the blogospehere.
A few months ago, I was thinking how nice it would be if someone combed through all the great LDS author and publisher blogs and collected those answers. It would also be great if they could kind of summarize and comment on what was out there. And even better, what if they reached out to editors, agents, publishers, bookstore employees and of course, authors to get their advice and opinions?
I’d want to read something like that. Maybe a weekly column that came out every Friday so I could peruse it over the weekend. If I wanted to read that kind of thing, maybe other LDS writers and readers would too. Of course, I have my own blog at www.jscottsavage.com. I post every Monday on the Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog with a group of wonderful and talented authors. But if I was going to do something like this, I wanted to do it on a site that wasn’t tied to one or more authors, or even a single publisher. I wanted a level playing field that was already established as an awesome resource for LDS writers. To me LDSPublisher made perfect sense.
This may sound crazy after publishing eight books and being represented by two national agents, but I was more than a little nervous to approach LDSPublisher with my idea. Of course, she is charming, witty, smart, and, from what I’ve heard, quite the babe. But she is also a one woman wonder. Would she want me as a regular guest poster? Getting her e-mail answer of yes was almost as exciting as my first book contract. (And only slightly less lucrative.)
So here I am. My name is Jeff Savage. I’ve published six novels as Jeffrey S. Savage and two as J. Scott Savage. I’ve published with Covenant, Deseret Book, and Shadow Mountain. I was previously represented by Bookend Literary, and am now with Dystel and Godrich. I’ve taught dozens of workshops and lots of classes. I love the life of an LDS author and hope to keep doing it until they pry the keyboard out of my lifeless fingers. I get cranky if I haven’t written in a few days and am opinionated to a fault. But if there is one thing I am committed to, it is paying back to new authors the help Chris gave me back when I needed it.
Now that I’ve used all my ink and space on who I am and why I’m going to be here for hopefully many more Fridays to come, I don’t have a ton of space left for the column itself. But I will give you a taste of what’s coming next Friday.
Recently on an author list I am a part of, LDS author Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen asked the following question regarding the upcoming Whitney Awards.
“In the past, I’ve created my own rubric . . . but who’s to say what I feel are the important elements in a book are the same as those chosen by another author/reader? I absolutely love the Whitneys, and I will continue to support and help with it as much as I can, but I feel its current, unregulated judging process is much too subjective to really MEAN anything more than a popularity contest. But maybe popularity is what we want it to mean?”
I absolutely LOVED this question and I asked Ronda if I could use her quote here. It really is a great question. What makes a novel award-worthy? Is it the quality of writing? The story? How it makes you feel when you get done? What if a novel up for an LDS award is incredibly well crafted but contains elements that might offend many LDS readers? Does not creating specific judging criteria lessen the award? Should we vote with our hearts or our heads?
Next Friday I will link to some interesting and controversial opinions, as well as posting the comments of LDS authors, publishers, and bookstore employees. So start thinking about how you judge books and see if your ideas agree with what I find out. Until then, have a great writing week and I’ll check back in next Friday.